On Sunday 15 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation about a suite of measures designed to tackle the new ‘state of disaster’ posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. A day later, Cabinet ministers gave further details. And as frustrating or obstructive as the measures might seem, the good news is that they are mostly based on international best practice, writes REBECCA DAVIS.
International health experts have made it clear that the challenge to be faced by developing countries in tackling Covid-19 will be of a different order of magnitude to rich-world nations.
Poverty, poor sanitation, an existing disease burden, overstretched health systems and extreme urban population density mean that the pandemic could explode in poor countries in an even more catastrophic way than has been seen elsewhere thus far.
The countries which have been applauded for their response to Covid-19 up to this point are predominantly wealthy and/or authoritarian, meaning that some of their interventions are difficult to replicate in a struggling democracy like South Africa.
Yet based on the announcements by the government over the past two days, South Africa appears to be following most of what is now accepted as international best practice for tackling the pandemic.
Experts are clear that acting before case numbers increase rapidly is absolutely key to flattening the epidemiological curve. To quote Mike Ryan, head of health emergencies at the World Health Organisation: “Have no regrets. Be the first mover. The virus will get you if you don’t move quickly”.
Possibly the best example of the fruits of this policy comes from Taiwan, which introduced traveller screenings and travel restrictions from China as early as the beginning of February 2020. Despite being only 80km from mainland China, Taiwan to date still has only 67 cases.
With less than 100 cases and 0 mortalities thus far, South Africa’s decisive action now could prevent a more disastrous outbreak. Although its measures are hardly ahead of the curve, time-wise, it can be argued that it is still in front of the likes of the United Kingdom – which has yet to introduce firm policies on mass gatherings amid flip-flopping on its controversial approach of “herd immunity”.
Speaking on Monday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize made the point that South Africa also has to act quickly because of the already overburdened nature of its health system.
“Delayed action could overwhelm the health system. In other words, if we wait until we run into several hundreds and thousands, you’re running the risk of overwhelming the health services,” said Mkhize.
Source: Daily Maverick
Read the full report HERE.